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Right to Work
Is Michigan a Right to Work State? 6 Questions, Answered
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AnnaMarie Houlis
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Journalist & travel blogger
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Here's everything you need to know about the right-to-work law, at-will employment and these mean in Michigan.

What is right to work?

The right-to-work law, which is also known as the Workplace Freedom or Workplace Choice law, is a law that grants workers the right to choose whether or not they'd like to join a union in their workplace. Likewise, it also makes it optional for workers already in unionized workplaces to pay union dues and other membership fees that are required for union representation (whether they're involved in the union or not).

What is at-will employment?

Every state with the exception of Montana is an at-will employment state. Under the at-will employment policy, either the employer or the employee can terminate employment at any time for any reason (unless it's illegal and proven wrongful termination, which is hard to do) without consequence — unless the employee has a contract or a union agreement that states otherwise.

Is Michigan a right to work state?

Michigan is a right-to-work state. In fact, Michigan became a right-to-work state in 2013 after then-republican Gov. Rick Snyder signed a law that prohibits new contracts requiring workers to pay union dues or fees as a condition of employment.

"Under Michigan's new freedom-to-work laws, workers will have the freedom to choose whether or not to join a union," according to the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs. "They won't be required to pay union dues if they don't want to, and they won't lose their jobs because of it... The new laws merely say that agreements between employers and unions cannot require public or private sector employees to join a union or pay union dues or agency fees. Workers will now be able to pay union dues voluntarily."

Since passing right-to-work laws in Michigan, the state has added more than 430,000 new jobs, a 10 percent gain, according to the Washington Examiner. Likewise, wages also have increased in Michigan, as weekly wages are up an average of $111, or nearly $6,000 per year since 2012, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Plus, not having to pay union fees can typically save Michigan workers between $500 and $1,000 annually.

Can you be fired for any reason in Michigan?

Michigan is indeed an at-will state, which means that you can be fired for any just reason at any time. While proving wrongful termination isn't always an easy feat, your employer can only fire you for legal reasons.

What are important Michigan labor laws?

Here are three important labor laws in Michigan of which you should be aware.

1. Meals and Breaks Law

"Michigan labor laws required employers to provide employees under 18 years of age with a 30-minute, uninterrupted rest period if scheduled to work more than five continuous hours," according to the Employment Law Handbook.

While Michigan does not require employers to provide breaks, including lunch breaks, for workers 18 years old or older, an employer who does indeed choose to provide a meal, lunch or break period must relieve their employees of their work duties for the entirety of the break period in order for it to be unpaid.

2. Overtime

Both according to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and Michigan state law, Michigan employers are required to provide their employees with overtime pay. This pay must be at a rate of time and a half for all hours worked in excess of 40 hours.

3. Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)

Any employer in the country, including in Michigan, with 50 or more employers must provide qualifying employees with as much as 12 weeks of unpaid days each year.

"FMLA is designed to help employees balance their work and family responsibilities by allowing them to take reasonable unpaid leave for certain family and medical reasons," according to the U.S. Department of Labor. "It also seeks to accommodate the legitimate interests of employers and promote equal employment opportunity for men and women."

What are some resources for Michigan employees?

To learn more about employment laws in Michigan, check out these resources:

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AnnaMarie Houlis is a feminist, a freelance journalist and an adventure aficionado with an affinity for impulsive solo travel. She spends her days writing about women’s empowerment from around the world. You can follow her work on her blog, HerReport.org, and follow her journeys on Instagram @her_report, Twitter @herreportand Facebook.

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